British-Estonian military relations in general, and more specifically those with the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) commander of a planned division which will incorporate a British Army brigade, remain strong, British military and diplomatic leaders say, rejecting claims made in a recent piece from daily Postimees.
Britain's Ambassador to Estonia, H.E. Ross Allen, said Wednesday that: "We have very good relationships with all of our Estonian counterparts."
The article published by Postimees last month reported that Maj. Gen. Veiko-Vello Palm had rubbed some people up the wrong way, meaning he was unlikely to, for instance, replace Maj. Martin Herem as EDF commander when the latter's term ends in 2025.
"Specifically with General Palm, we've all worked in different ways with him, and I've always found him him excellent to work with, have had a very good working relationship with him, and have enjoyed working with him and all of the other senior Estonian officers I've come across," Ambassador Allen continued.
"From my point of view, I didn't recognize anything in that article. None of that struck me as being accurate in terms of the U.K. relationship with him or with anyone else, or as reflective of my experience with working with him, or anyone else at the senior level."
"We've had lots of two-, three- and four-star generals come through here from the U.K., and often he is their counterpart, and he has got on really well with them too. I think he also has a very good sense of humor, ´and is quite fun to work with," Allen added.
Commander of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup in Estonia, British Army Brigadier Giles Harris, said: "I've known Veiko for years, and I'm always slightly suspicious of people who don't show passion for what they do. But he shows passion, and I respect that. That's the business we're in so I think if anything it makes the bonds stronger."
"He's a very capable individual and is very committed to Estonia," Brig. Harris went on.
The British Embassy in Tallinn's Defense Attaché, Cdr. Rob Steadman of the Royal Navy, said: "We have gone through a long journey over the last 18 months and his role has seen him involved in not only the military plans aspect and the EDF side, but also in a lot of integration."
"For instance at a seminar in London last year, he was representing the EDF at that meeting and represented Estonia very well too."
"Over the last 18 months we've got to know each other, as in U.K. and Estonia relations, better, in the way we operate; we're better for it, and the relationship remains strong," Cdr Steadman went on.
Ambassador Allen noted that, as with other spheres such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meetings with Maj. Gen. Palm and other leading military officers and defense personnel are always straight and to the point, with the emphasis more on delivery – something which, he said, is appreciated in the U.K. as well as in Estonia.
EDF Commander-in-Chief Gen. Martin Herem is due to step down in 2025, when his term ends.
In its article published July 21 (link in Estonian), Postimees tipped Brig. Gen. Vahur Karus, current commander of the Defense Forces Academy (Kaitseväe akadeemia), as his successor, while at the same time said Maj. Gen. Palm was not a likely candidate, due to personality clashes, including with the Brits.
The division which Maj. Gen. Palm oversees is somewhat of a sui generis formation, in that it will incorporate a British Army brigade, the bulk of whose assets, including armor, will remain in the U.K. on high readiness.
On the other hand, British officers will be, and are being, integrated into the divisional command structure and embedded in a variety of roles, including advisory and liaison. As such they will be based in Estonia most of the time, many on two-year-long deployments.
This development is the fruition of a deepening Estonian-British military cooperation in the light of the two NATO summits, in Madrid last summer and in Vilnius last month, where a road map to an expanded, defensive-based posture is superseding, though providing continuity with, the deterrent-based posture encapsulated in the Tapa-based eFP.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marcus Turovski